How Long Should a CV Be?

The length of your CV is a key factor in deciding whether you get a job. You have to consider it from the perspective of your potential employer. They might screen potentially hundreds of CV’s for a position and they’re not going to comb through pages and pages of applications.

This is why when we describe the ideal way to write a CV, we highlight the importance of grabbing attention quickly. So what is the ideal length for a CV? Below we explore how long a CV should be, what’s vital to include and discuss the merits of shorter CVs versus longer CVs.

How long should a CV be?

According to research across the AD Group, the ideal CV length is two pages long.

75% of the recruiters and employers we surveyed suggested that for most candidates, a two-page CV focused on work experience and key achievements makes a good CV.

Likewise, the majority of respondents agreed that a longer CV would typically apply to a candidate that has a longer employment history – anywhere north of 15 years – or a senior job title that requires more context.

This isn’t always possible, particularly if you’re a graduate or applying for entry-level roles. In this case, our research was fairly unanimous – a one-page CV is great provided it still gives an overview of your relevant skills and experience in an easy-to-read and engaging way.

What should your CV include?

When you set out to write your CV, always take a look at the job description first. While it’s fine to have a CV template you work from, tailoring your CV to suit the specific role makes your job application much stronger. That said, there are three main things you should always include:

Work History

The first is your work history. Where have you worked previously and what were your responsibilities? 

This is the information that provides the most context on how viable you are as a candidate. For a potential employer, seeing what you’ve done before often provides more insight into how much training you need, how quickly you’ll adapt to the role and your potential for progression.

In terms of structure, 40% of our respondents specifically mentioned the importance of ‘most recent experience first’, highlighting this as a common mistake many applicants make.

Your work experience should always run in chronological order – starting with your current role and working backwards.

Work Achievements

The second is your work achievements. There are several schools of thought on how you might lay out your key achievements on your CV.

In some cases, you may want to have a specific section of the CV that lays out each achievement individually. The benefit of this approach is that they’re neatly grouped and easier to screen. 

However, another way of highlighting your successes is by weaving them throughout other sections, supplementing your responsibilities or skills. This provides further context for employers to the rest of your CV and provides an example of you in action. This is often much more useful for readers as they can see that you understand how your work and skills fit into the context of the business you’re applying for.

Key Skills

The final core pillar to consider is your key skills. This is particularly important if you’re applying for a role that requires hard skills – such as an understanding of certain software or technical platforms.

In the finance sector, for example, you may specialise in measuring and reporting on analytics, alongside the relevant programs that measure this data, which is a huge boost for companies in the industry.

In terms of formatting the skills section of your CV, you’ll always want to make this as concise and easy-to-understand as possible. Readers don’t need an in-depth understanding of your skill set, just how proficient you are. 

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Tips for reducing the size of your CV

So you’ve built out your CV and you’re happy with the level of detail and quality. The problem is, it’s four pages long. 

While you should always aim to present yourself in the best way, you must do so in a way that is suitable for your audience.

According to our survey, respondents suggested the importance of breaking down longer sections with bullet points, making it easier to screen and pick out key points.

More often than not, readers aren’t expecting to work through longer paragraphs but simple points that grab the attention while still providing insights into your potential as a candidate. 

Aside from that, there are several different ways of reducing the size of your CV that can make it much more palatable – from formatting to the way it’s structured. Below are several ways you can start reducing the size of your CV:

1. Repetition

One of the common mistakes that candidates make, particularly when they’re creating their first CV or updating after a longer period of employment, is repetition across the document. 

You don’t have lots of real estate across the entire document when you’re creating a CV, so you must use all of the space as economically as possible. 

If you have a certain achievement or statistic that you’re proud of, you might be tempted to use it to fill up space. Unfortunately, this doesn’t create an engaging experience for the reader. 

When you have a great point you want to make in your CV, make sure you use it in the best possible place and leave it at that. 

The more you repeat, the higher the chance you lose the interest of the reader and the potential of progress.

2. Relevancy

The best way to shorten your CV is to focus on creating the most relevant document as possible.

While you might be incredibly proud of a certain skill set or achievement, such as your ability to collate and report on data, if the role doesn’t require it than you’re wasting space on the CV. 

This is why reading the job description is so vital. Everything the employer wants to see will be on the description, which makes crafting your application significantly easier. If you’re considering adding anything that doesn’t align with the description, prioritise length over padding.

3. Achievement-led

If possible, ensure that everything you’re adding to the CV is led or supported by achievements. If you can demonstrate relevant qualifications, skills or experience that also resulted in a significant achievement, you’re onto a winner.

This is why we suggest peppering your achievements throughout your CV rather than cramming them into a single section.

Backing up relevant points with your successes not only reinforces the importance of the achievement but also contributes to how engaging the point is overall. 

Regardless of the approach you take, achievements provide vital context for someone who’s never met you before and can often support two points in one instance. 

There’s a huge difference between saying: ‘I was part of a team that doubled sales’ or positioning it as ‘my understanding of data analytics led to our sales team developing new customer-led processes that directly impacted sales increasing by 50% in a month’. 

When is a long CV beneficial?

So we’ve established that a complete, two-page CV is often the best way forward. But when is a longer CV more beneficial?

According to our research, a longer CV is typically expected by an individual who is applying for a senior role or when someone is job searching deep into their career. 

If you have over 15 years of relevant work experience, it’s generally considered important to demonstrate not only what you’ve learnt but the career path you took – all of which is vital information for the employer. 

Similarly, if you’re applying for a role where you don’t expect as much competition – generally senior roles in larger companies – it might be worth putting together a longer CV that gives you more opportunity to stand out from the crowd. 

Employers looking for candidates in these roles typically won’t be screening as many employees, meaning you have more room to manoeuvre in terms of developing your CV. 

Discover our CV template

If you’re rewriting your CV, creating your first CV or just looking to make optimisations, you can find our complete CV template here. While it’s specifically designed for the finance industry, it’s still a great resource for someone looking to improve their CV in terms of formatting, structure or language. 

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